Friday, September 21, 2012

What's in a third baseman ...

Prior to Friday night's game against the Braves the Phillies were honoring Chipper Jones for a career that certainly will qualify him for a plaque in the Hall of Fame.
Let's look at his numbers broken down by position:

That's a career .401/.537/.938 OBP/SLG/OPS slash line for Chipper as a third baseman. That not only compares favorably with Mike Schmidt, it's actually better than Schmitty's .380/.526/.906. Granted, Schmidt was a better fielder and played in a less-juiced era. But let's face it: If you count baseball's all-time great third basemen on one hand, Chipper deserves to be one of the fingers.
Chipper did spend a couple of seasons in left field, moving there so the Braves could bring in Vinny Castilla to play third base. You might remember that Castilla STUNK as well.
But for most of his 18 seasons in the majors, Jones has been a staple at the hot corner for the Braves. It has been less stable for the Phillies in that span.
Since Jones became Atlanta's everyday third baseman in 1995, here is the list of starting third basemen the Phillies have had:

Charlie Hayes (one year, .340/.406/.746)
Todd Zeile (one year, .353/.436/.789)
Scott Rolen (six years, .373/.507/.880)
David Bell (four years, .331/.385/.715)
Abraham Nunez (one year, .310/.277/.587)
Pedro Feliz (two years, .306, .393, .699)
Placido Polanco (three years, .330, .356, .686)

Toss an honorable mention to Tomas Perez, who started 66 games at third over the years, mostly when David Bell's brittle back would fail.
That's a list of third basemen of varying skill levels, with Rolen and Polanco earning All-Star nods during their tenures. And let's point out two crazy factoids: 1) Zeile was the second-best third baseman they had during that time (offensively, that is -- defensively he was hideous); 2) Feliz, an absolute piƱata for many fans (especially the SABR crowd), had a higher OPS in his two years than Polanco has had in his second turn with the Phils.
Perhaps what played a role in the level of disgust Philadelphians have had toward Chipper is that he was everything people longed for the Phillies to find at the hot corner when Mike Schmidt rode into the sunset. The Phils had that for a while in Rolen, but his discontent has led to another decade-long meandering in the desert for the next iconic third baseman.
Looking at that list should make fans appreciate what Jimmy Rollins has meant to this team. His production at shortstop has made it possible for the Phillies to thrive in the past decade with a pretty big bag of blah at third base.
And while we're on that subject, I'll give you a tip for tomorrow morning: Check out Jack McCaffery's column. He goes to bat for Rollins as someone who ought to be in the Cooperstown conversation.
For those who want to check out all of Chipper Jones' stats, here they are, minors included:

No comments: